As veterans, we have a choice when leaving the armed forces and the ball is very much in our own court. It’s not as simple as it sounds but there are two different paths to choose from. When standing at that daunting fork road, we can either go left or we can go right.
If we decide to go left, we may find ourselves walking the trail of self-destruction which leads through a minefield of unemployment, stress, depression, financial strain or maybe even to the point of staring down the neck of a bottle while sleeping under the stars.
It would be at this point where we would wonder what would have happened if only we had decided to take the right-hand track back at the beginning of that forked road.
Maybe the right-hand route would have led towards a ‘successful transition’ from soldier to civilian through a blissful field of employment, financial security and to a hot meal with a roof over your head.
But how are we ever to know which way to go and is it ever really under our control?
Fellow veteran Joe Mac has walked both routes of self-destruction and success.
Joe Mac joined the British Army in 1999 to serve with The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment overseas in Kosovo and Iraq.
What was it that swayed you towards leaving the army?
“I left the army in 2005 because I was really struggling, I would say that I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) but they never really used to diagnose it as much back then. I needed a break when I came home from Op Telic 4, so I decided to leave the army in order to try to sort myself out and then I planned to return as soon as I felt better”.
“I returned to my regiment and I struggled because the army had changed so much in that short space of time that I was gone. The army evolved rapidly and I found that I was stuck in the old school Op Telic 4 (Iraq Operational Tour) way when the rest of the regiment were on a whole new level”.
“My reasons for leaving the army for the second time was for my kids. My kids needed stability and sadly they never had that stability with my wife at the time. Ultimately I did the right thing because I now have the kids and they are mine. Although I was leaving the army for my children, everyone around me in the army was telling me that my career was more important… My kids are more important, which is why I left”.
How was your transition from soldier to civilian?
“When I left the army for the first time, I completed a full resettlement package and I gained all of my licences because that was what I was pushed towards by the army at the time. I’ve never used them licences, EVER! I was homeless and sofa surfing, occasionally I would even sleep under the stars. I hit the bottle and was drinking something chronic and all of the money that I was earning from my job, I was spending on booze. I did CP in London for minor celebrities and I kept getting in trouble for being half-cut. I was defeating myself rather than trying to rebuild myself”.
“This happened to be my reason for leaving London as that is where I am originally from, I needed to get away from the drinking society and that led me to Eastbourne”.
“It was easier leaving the army the second time around because I had already done it once before, so I knew what to do and what not to do. Hence why I took the year out to complete as many courses as possible so that I could set myself up. I even set myself up with housing”.
Not only was Joe able to set himself up with qualifications and housing but he has now set up his own business in property maintenance and improvements.
Joe continues to tell us about his business – ‘Mac Property Solutions‘.
“The company is based in Eastbourne but we cover the whole os Sussex. I’ve been doing it since I left the army and now I have four guys working for me full-time and I also have four guys who are sub-contracted to me’.
“my business is in property maintenance and property development. We have contracts with housing associations and we also help a lot of homeless people, drug addicts and people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We do a lot of work to provide homes for them in order to get them off the streets”.
“We also carry out lots of private work for customers in regards to kitchens, plumbing, gas, electrics and carpentry. Basically anything within the construction industry”.
Do you have intentions to employ more veterans?
“I do indeed, based on their work ethics for a start. Ideally, I would like the veteran to have the correct qualifications and some level of experience but the veteran doesn’t necessarily need to have this”.
Would you employ a veteran who has earned his or her qualifications through the MOD resettlement program but is now looking to gain some experience?
“Absolutely one-hundred-per-cent, that is how I started in this line of work”.
“I was in Portsmouth recruiting and I whilst I was posted there, I did my Physical Training Instructor course and then I realised that actually, I don’t want to do this. I had a whole year of leave which I combined into one lump sum and during this time I completed loads of courses. I retrained as a carpenter, a plasterer, a tiler and I even completed a gas course”.
“It cost me thousands but when I left the army, rather than looking for a job with a company, I went out on my own and tried to find my own way through trial and error”.
This has obviously worked for Joe and in this particular case, why waste time and effort looking for work when you can just put yourself out there and do the work in order to build upon what you have already been taught from your resettlement courses.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone leaving the armed forces, what would you say?
“Don’t listen to other soldiers, they have no idea. How can a soldier who is still serving give you any advice about leaving the armed forces? Do your own research and look out for yourself, don’t listen to other soldiers. If you want to learn about housing, go out and learn about housing, if you want to learn about employment then go and learn about employment. Don’t listen to the army because they have no idea” – Joe Mac
The only thing we can do to prevent ourselves from walking the wrong line is to conduct your research, prepare and plan as well as you can. Although we are all fully aware that no plan survives contact, there is evidence from Joe’s experiences. Preparing for your transition by completing as many courses as possible will certainly put you in the general direction of a successful transition from soldier to civilian.
Don’t let yourself fall into a pit of self-destruction. I know that’s sometimes easier said than done but by throwing yourself onto a variety of courses will increase your chances of escaping that left-hand track of defeat.
I hope that you have all found this week’s blog interesting and beneficial, just as much as I have enjoyed hearing about Joe Mac’s transition from soldier to civilian.
Catch you all next weekend for another Soldier to Civi blog
Jamie and featured veteran Joe Mac
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